Harman Kardon TrafficPro
By Rob Hephner
Posted on Nov 1, 2003

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The Harman Kardon TrafficPro is a rather deceptive piece of electronics. Its puritan exterior doesn’t garner a second look from most, including even the most savvy of consumers. It does, however, hide one heck of a lot of features. As a starting point, understand that the TrafficPro is a single DIN chassis that contains a complete AM/FM CD receiver with plenty of power as well as a complete navigation system that gives not only vocal turn-by-turn directions but an on-screen display as well. Hold that thought and we’ll return to it in a moment — let’s first look at the performance of some things that most would take for granted.

The Sound Of Harman
Most who look at this head unit for a review would probably concentrate heavily on the navigation and skip over the performance of the radio and the CD player. This would be a mistake, not only because of how well they perform, but also because of the features that make them unique.

First off, the head unit has great power and a very good sound. The interface, while not that intuitive, is easy to learn with time, and, once you get to the tone controls, you’ll find that the control they offer really gives you what you would expect from a high-caliber radio. One very cool thing about the tone controls is that they’re separate for the radio and the CD player. That means that the setup that you use for FM broadcast doesn’t have to be used for CD and vice versus.

Now, when it comes to the radio functions, you’ll find that the RDS functions come in very handy because of how the multifunction keys work. On most head units, the keys are assigned for a specific use. On the TrafficPro you basically have two knobs and ten buttons that are open and available for multiple uses. This means that when available, the TrafficPro can list your favorite stations by their call letters. Also, because the TrafficPro has the ability to be upgraded via firmware (something I am a big fan of), the keys can be reassigned in the future and new feature can be added with no concern as to what any certain key did previously.

Now, the manual and all listings of the TrafficPro that I could find on the Web referenced an auxiliary input. When I opened the box, I searched for the input and found the output plug which I mistook for the input. Later, while installing the unit, I discovered that output plugs were not the input that I needed for the satellite receiver. I went back to the box and finally to Harman Kardon’s Web site which told me the plug was optional!? I made a call to Harman Kardon and they sent me a plug — a simple plug with two RCA inputs. When put in place, you cannot use a changer, but so what.

Give Me Direction
In most cases, this would be the end of the review — the head unit and its features kick butt. It has great sound, has the ability to have an additional input, and, finally, if new features come along it has the ability to be upgraded by the owner. But, that’s not it — this unit is far more that just a radio, it’s a navigation device as well.

I have tested and installed quite a few navigation devices, and I must admit that this is the easiest one to deal with on many different fronts. In fact, this is the kind of unit you should have no problem putting in your grandparent’s vehicle.

Before you run out to purchase this unit, do yourself a favor and make sure that the software will cover your area, and that the unit will work in your vehicle. Two out of three vehicles that we tried to install the unit in would not work — one because speed sense wire was not compatible and the other because the TrafficPro cannot be ISO mounted (ISO mounting is popular in many Japanese vehicles). The good thing is the fact that Harman Kardon provides a Web site that allows you enter your zip code to see if your area is covered and also give you the wiring colors and locations for the speed sense wire and the reverse wire that you’ll need to have the unit operate properly.

Beyond the speed sense wire and the reverse wire, the only other required wiring for the navigation system is the satellite antenna which needs to be mounted in plain sight of the sky. I found that the antenna worked perfectly fine underneath the top portion of the dash beside the radio, since it was not blocked by any metal.

Once installed, the navigation software needs to be loaded — this is an easy process that the unit itself guides you through. You need to select which region of the U.S. (East or West) you want — beyond that, the unit does it all. After this, the unit asks you to go on a short calibration drive to align its input data with the map that you installed. Once this is done, you’re ready to go. If at any point you feel that the calibration was not correct, you can enter the sub menu that allows you to recalibrate the system, change the voice level, or start all over.

On The Road
In the setup, you get to choose a female or male voice for the navigation prompts. Both sound great and both can be called up at the push of the info button to hear the next step in your travels. The display shows the next street and what action you should take, and an arrow shows that you should turn right, left, or go straight. Much like any navigation system, you input the street and address that you would like to travel to and the system calculates the route. The system updates you along the way and, as I said before, if you miss a direction the info button will repeat the direction and give you an estimated time of travel left. Points of interest are plentiful and rather accurate.

One very cool part of this navigation system is the fact that the CD does not need to be left in all of the time. In most travels, you won’t need it since the system stores the data it needs in the onboard RAM. In some cases, such as ours when we drove from Phoenix, AZ, to Laughlin, NV, you might have a CD interrupted so that the system can update the travel route (because we chose to not take its directions).

When you miss a turn or choose to go a different way, the system recalculates the trip for you and continues. I noticed that the voice prompts could benefit from a chime, but, overall, this navigation unit holds the highest marks for its ability not to distract the driver. In fact, it provides just what you need and nothing more. If you get the idea that I like it, I do!

Final Comments
I like this unit a lot. It really only needs a few things to make it one of the best units ever. First, it needs to be ISO mountable; second, it would be nice to see the speed sense wire accept both digital and analog inputs (it only accepts digital now). They have an aux input, so they should put it in the box.

If you’re seriously looking for a navigation system for your vehicle, you should look at this unit first — it really is that good.

Price & Contact: $999; Tel: 516-921-TPRO; Web: www.harmankardon.com

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